‘Portion of the Week’ Category Archives

25
Aug

Eating Habits

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Portion of the Week

We should look for someone with whom to eat and drink before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone and is leading the life of a lion or wolf (Epicurus).”

I’m not so sure that finding someone with whom to share a feast is necessarily going to protect a person from living the life of a wild beast. Bohumil Hrabal in “I Served The King of England,” describes a feast of wild antelope and roasted camel, the animals stolen from the local zoo, to honor Emperor Haley Selassie in 1939 Prague. As far as Hrabal was concerned, this was a meal of a wild beast.

I guess we can’t criticize anyone for their diet, as many would be disgusted by Cholent or steak. Of course, we would all agree that the dish of Powdered Wife described by John Smith (The Generall Historie of Virginia,) certainly qualifies as the meal of the beast.

How would we judge the enormous feasts consumed by the Rebellious Child? Does it qualify as something very strange, such as the meal prepared for Haley Selassie, or is it more like the meal of Powdered Wife? Perhaps, his eating habits are of concern because of Epicurus’s dictum against eating alone; his eating habits reflect a person who stands alone against the rest of the world.

Nachmanides explains that part of his sin is, “because he is a glutton, and a drunkard, transgressing that which we have been commanded, “You shall be holy (Leviticus 19:2),” and “He shall you serve, and to Him shall you cleave (Deuteronomy 13:5),” and we are commanded to know God in all our ways, and a glutton and a drunkard does not know the way of God.

It certainly doesn’t seem that Nachmanides sees this young man as a wild beast consuming a feast of antelope and camel, and certainly not a dish of Powdered Wife, but that he is someone who is he eating habits display that he is a person who does not know the way of God. I am confident that my eating habits do not reflect the strange dishes served to the Emperor of Ethiopia or the Powdered Wife consumed by a starving man in 1609 Jamestown, but I wonder whether my eating habits reflect someone who knows the way of God.

This is not about the ritual washing of hands before a meal, nor about the blessings before and after the meal, and it is not about our conversations while eating, but a description of the way we eat. Does our Netilat Yada’im lead us to be careful in the way we eat? Does our mention of God as King in our blessings before the meal remind us to eat as royalty, reflecting the way of God? It isn’t even about how we hold a knife and fork, because for ages people ate with their hands.

This is a lesson in eating with a sense of sanctity, and using eating as a way to attach to our Infinite Creator. I can’t do it when eating a candy bar, I have enough difficulty when eating a Shabbat meal.

I found that applying Epicurus’ rule led me to always imagine myself as setting in the eating at God’s table; I’m not alone. I’m aware that I am eating in the presence of Someone else. “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, know well what lies before you, put a knife to your throat if you are master of your soul. Do not lust for his delicacies, for it is deceitful bread (Proverbs 23:1–3).” King Solomon is teaching us that when we learn how to live life as one who is eating at the Kings table, we will learn how to master our desires in life. To ignore God’s presence even while we’re eating, is to act as did the mythical Rebellious Child.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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30
Mar

Arguing with God-Haftarah Shabbat HaGadol

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

“Your words have been harsh against Me, says God. Yet you say, what have we spoken against You? You have said, it is useless to serve God; what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance and that we have walked as mourners before the Lord of Hosts? So now we call the proud sinners with praise, for those who do wickedness are raised up; they have even tested God and been spared (Malachi 3:13–15).”

“What’s the use in serving God? No matter what we do, we still get abused; we don’t have anything, and we are prosperous!” These are their words even though they had just been relieved from seventy years of captivity and slavery!

King David describes his response to such arguments and complaints in Psalm 73:

This is what the wicked are like

always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure

and have washed my hands in innocence.

All day long I have been afflicted,

and every morning brings new punishments.


If I had spoken out like that,

I would have betrayed Your children.

When I tried to understand all this,

it troubled me deeply

till I entered the sanctuary of God;

then I understood their final destiny.

Surely You place them on slippery ground;

You cast them down to ruin.

How suddenly are they destroyed,

completely swept away by terrors!

They are like a dream when one awakes;

so You, My Master,

You will despise them as fantasies.

When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,

I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before You.

Yet I am always with You;

You hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

and with glory You will receive me.

Whom have I in heaven but You?

And earth has nothing I desire besides You.

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but the Lord is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

Those who are far from You will perish;

You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.

But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made My Master, the Lord God my refuge;

I will tell of all Your deeds.

Isaiah too, responded to such complaints:

“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,

Israel, whom I have chosen.

This is what God says—

He who made you, Who formed you in the womb,

and who will help you:

Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,

Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,

and streams on the dry ground;

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,

and my blessing on your descendants.

They will spring up like grass in a meadow,

like poplar trees by flowing streams.

Some will say, ‘I belong to God’;

others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;

still others will write on their hand, ‘God’s,’

and will take the name Israel (Isaiah 44:1-5).”

Malachi continues his message by reminding us that each word we speak is recorded:

“Then those who feared God talked with each other, and God listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared God and honored His name.

‘On the day when I act,’ says God, Master of Legions,, ‘they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve the Lord and those who do not’ (Malachi 3:16-18).”

Malachi well understands our fears and frustrations. He urges us to accept God’s promise of assurance and protection. He wants us to remember that each word of complaint we speak leaves a permanent Mark on our soul. He urges us to fear God, not His wrath, but rather to be in awe of Him, and hold on to His promise of protection just as did the Children of Israel when they risked their lives and took the animal worshiped as a god by the Egyptians and tied them up in front of their homes, provoking their former masters, and saying, “We fear God, not you.”

When the people returned from Babylon to Jerusalem they were still frightened of the military powers who threatened their existence in their new home. They did not fear God as much as they feared men. They cried out against God, rather than to Him, in rejection and anger, rather than connection. They were unchanged despite experiencing redemption. Their complaints were no different from those in King David’s time, and those to whom Isaiah spoke. Their words were the same even after experiencing Redemption. This is our challenge on Pesach- “Peh Sach,” a mouth that converses; has our vocabulary and speech changed because of our positive experiences? (Please see our special series on TheFoundationStone.org: Nisan-Perfecting Our Speech, and Nisan-Fighting The Fire of Anger)

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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30
Mar

The Silversmith-Haftarah Shabbat HaGadol

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

The verse in Malachi immediately preceding the beginning of this week’s Haftarah reads, “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to God and offering in righteousness and (Malachi 3:2–3).”

A man wanted to learn more about the process of refining silver to better understand these verses. He went to a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. As he watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up.

He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest to burn away all the impurities. The man reflected on God holding us in such a hotspot. He thought again about the verse, that God sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.

He asked the silversmith if it were true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. if this silver were left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The man was silent for a moment, then asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled and answered, “Oh, that’s easy; when I see my image in it.”

When we speak of God as the Refiner, although we may remember that the refiner holds the silver in the hottest spot, He keeps His eyes on that which is precious every moment to prevent it from being damaged, and He holds it carefully He can see until His own image in it; in us.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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13
Mar

Impurity in the Relationship

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

This week’s Haftarah begins, “Again the word of God came to me: ‘Son of man, the house of Israel are living in their own land, they defile it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was as the impurity of a menstruous woman in my sight’ (Ezekiel 36:16-17).” The Radak explains: The impurity of a menstruous woman is temporary; it lasts until her period ends and she goes to the Mikvah, hinting that the impurity of the House of Israel is temporary, and can be purified. The metaphor hints that God will eventually restore His relationship with the House of Israel just as a husband returns to his wife when she is purified.

This is one of those times when I read a verse and can recite the morning blessing, “Who did not make me a woman,” with extra intention! What a horrible message to send to women! Is a woman to feel that her period with its separation is similar to Israel in exile because of their sins?

A woman doesn’t have a choice whether to menstruate. The impurity happens to her. Is God implying to Ezekiel that the House of Israel is the victim of its impurity? The metaphor hints that the conduct of the House of Israel happened to them as a period happens to a woman!

The tense also implies that this impurity is endemic to whenever the House of Israel dwells in their own land; Ezekiel is addressing the exiles who are living in Babylon, outside of Israel, and yet he says, “The House of Israel are living in their own land, they defile it,” in the present tense.

I suggest that the “impurity” is not that of the actual period, and that the “menstruating woman” is not a woman who is having her period, but a woman who is still in the stage of life when she has a regular period:

Imagine a couple who are having the most intense physical and emotional intimacy of their lives for two weeks. They are experiencing the deepest connection to each other and feel unified as never before. They both know that, as wonderful as these two weeks are, the woman will soon have her period, and the physical intimacy will be temporarily suspended. They want the emotional intimacy to continue, but they wonder whether it will last despite their physical separation. The “period” with its distance is present in their minds even as they are so connected. The question, “Will it last?” is a constant, even when all is well. There is a hint of “impurity,” or separation, even in their deep connection.

Is our relationship with God any different? Do we not wonder “Will it last?” even in our moments of deepest connection with God? Is there not a constant hint of separation even when we are attached to God?

Even when the “the house of Israel are living in their own land,” we know that we can lose our land, and question the consistency of our relationship with God. The question introduces a hint of separation into our, “conduct and their actions.” That is the impurity God is describing to Ezekiel.

[Consider the Golden Calf, for which the Red Heifer is brought as an atonement, and how the Children of Israel needed physical intimacy with God.]

[Consider the metaphor of why an impure person may not enter the Tabernacle grounds: someone who lives with the question, “How long will it last?” may not enter the place of deepest physical intimacy with God.]

There is a challenge in this metaphor of rebuke: “You are in exile. You are separated from God’s House and land. If you experience the distance as damaging the relationship; that without physical intimacy you cannot have emotional connection, you are not ready to return to the land! You may return, but you will still relate to Me with that seed of “impurity” and separation, wondering how long all this will last.”

“However, if you connect with Me despite the physical separation, you will learn to experience physical intimacy with Me, living in My land, coming to My house, without doubt, insecurity, a seed of impurity.”

This is the only way that Ezekiel can introduce his revolutionary approach in this, the Haftarah of Parah…

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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13
Mar

“Measure Twice Cut Once” by Prof Gerald August

by developer in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

Did the Torah get it wrong the first time it listed what to make in the tabernacle? Why do we need a repetition of the same specifications? This is a duplication of the same excruciating details. What’s the point? The Torah could have used that space to state the 39 things you are prohibited to do on Shabbos. Or, it could have provided more detail on ritual slaughter.

Also, the tabernacle was to be a temporary central point for the Jewish people until they could build the Temple. This information might be of interest to archaeological architects, but who could find any meaning that is relevant to us today?

I think there are two relevant lessons in this wallowing in specificity and repetition.

The first relevant point is that the specifications are repeated. When we take time to proofread, go back and check again, we insure that what we thought the first time was correct..

In our fast paced, new-media society how many people take the time to make sure that what they’re sending is what they want to send, and whether what they’re sending will blow back on them because it was not correct or just plain offensive.

When there was no Internet, and people wrote letters and notes to each other, there was a simple rule, the 24-hour test. Put it in a drawer and look at it the next day. You may find that the strong emotions you expressed were not appropriate or you didn’t have all the facts, so you didn’t send the letter. Remember e-mail is there forever. So the first lesson is to take your time and think about what you’re communicating. Don’t get yourself into trouble.

The second thing we learn is to be specific. When we leave out important details, the recipient does not know what to do. Many times we talk in generalities or not adequate detail, when what is needed are the specifics. The specifics had better be correct or the edifice crumbles down

I was visiting a relative in a hospital. The facility was on 80 acres and was relatively new, about 10 years old. One of the other visitors looked at me and said they made a big mistake when they built the hospital. I asked what it was. She asked me where the closets were? I pointed to the armoire. She told me there were no closets in the hospital. Someone forgot to put them in the blueprints. That is someone that should have measured twice, going over the specs with a fine tooth comb. That would have prevented such an egregious oversight.

We learn a lesson about specificity from the Torah. You need to have all the specifics. Leaving out one can be disastrous. Measure twice, cut once.

So rather than being a waste of parchment in the Torah, we learn two critical life lessons from these readings. No wonder so much space was given to them..

This post is in memory of my mother, whose yartzeit is this coming week.

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11
Mar

Four Songs of the Four Portions

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

There is one who sings the song of his own life, and in himself he finds everything, his full spiritual satisfaction.

There is another who sings the song of his people. He leaves the circle of his own individual self, because he finds it without sufficient breadth, without an idealistic basis. He aspires toward the heights, and he attaches himself with a gentle love to the whole community of Israel. Together with her he sings her songs. He feels grieved in her afflictions and delights in her hopes. He contemplates noble and pure thoughts about her past and her future, and probes with love and wisdom her inner spiritual essence.

There is another who reaches toward more distant realms, and he goes beyond the boundary of Israel to sing the song of man. His spirit extends to the wider vistas of the Majesty of man generally, and his noble essence. He aspires toward man’s general goal and looks forward toward his higher perfection. From this source of life he draws the subjects of his meditation and study, his aspirations and his visions.

Then there is one who rises toward wider horizons, until he links himself with all existence, with all God’s creatures, with all worlds, and he sings his song with all of them. It is of one such as this that tradition has said that whoever sings a portion of song each day is assured of having a share in the World to Come.

And then there is one who rises with all the songs in one ensemble, and they all joined their voices. Together they sing their songs with beauty, each one lends vitality and life to the other. They are sounds of joy and gladness, sounds of jubilation in celebration, sounds of ecstasy and holiness.

The song of the self, the song of the people, the song of man, the song of the world all merge in him at all times, in every hour.

This full comprehensiveness rises to become the song of holiness, the song of God, the son of Israel, in its full strength and beauty, in its full authenticity and greatness. The name “Israel” stands for Shir el, the song of God. It is a simple song, a twofold song, a threefold song, and a fourfold song. It is the Song of Songs of Solomon, Shlomo, which means peace or wholeness. It is the song of the King in Whom is wholeness. (Orot Kedushah, II, Pages 458-459)

I believe that these Four Songs are represented by the Four Portions: Shekalim, Zachor, Parah, and HaChodesh, culminating in the Song of Songs of Pesach. Can you see how each portion expresses a different song?

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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8
Mar

Tolstoy and the Golden Calf Part Three

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Before Yeravam ben Nevat, the people of Israel nursed from a single calf. Thereafter, they nursed from three; the one of the Golden Calf and the two of Yeravam (Sanhedrin 102a).”

How could the person about whom the Talmud says, “The Torah knowledge of Yeravam was flawless (Sanhedrin 102a),” and that “the entire Torah was an open field to him, and he discovered new insights that no ear had ever heard (ibid.),” introduce such a idol worship to the people?

“He seated a wicked man beside a righteous man and asked them, ‘ Will you sign to everything I do?’

‘ Yes,’ they replied.

‘ I would like to be king over you,’ he said.

‘ Very well,’ they replied.

‘ Will you fulfill all that I command you?’

‘ Yes,’ they replied.

‘ Even if it be to worship idols?’

‘ Heaven forbid,’ said the righteous people.

The wicked men said to the righteous men, ‘ Do you think a man like Yeravam would worship idols? He merely wishes to test you and see if you will obey him.’

Even Achiah haShiloni erred and signed (Sanhedrin 101b).” There is danger in allowing a single person to hold such unlimited power. This was Yeravam’s argument.

This was his argument with King Solomon.

This was his fear of Jerusalem: “If this people goes up to offer sacrifices (I Kings 12:27).” Yeravam said, “It is a tradition that no one may sit in the inner courtyard of the Temple except for the kings of the House of Judah. When they see Rechavam sitting while I stand, they will think, ‘ This one is the true king; that one, the slave.’ If I too sit, I will be in rebellion against the kingdom. Then they will slay me and follow Rechavam.”

The people insist on breaking away from the House of Judah and yet they acknowledge that only a descendant of that House may sit in the inner courtyard of the Temple. The people who are insisting on breaking away into a separate kingdom, will perceive anyone else who sits in that place as rebelling against the kingdom! Even the people who are rejecting the King will still honor him! They do not know what they really want. There is nothing more dangerous than having a single human being with unlimited power “Tolstoy and the Golden Calf-Part Two”) leading people who are unsure of what they want; “Tolstoy and the Golden Calf”. Such a person is always in danger of becoming a Golden Calf himself.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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7
Mar

Tolstoy and the Golden Calf Part Two

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I remember one day in the early spring when I was alone in the forest listening to the sounds of the woods. I listened and thought about the one thing that had constantly occupied me for the last three years. Again I was searching for God.

“Very well,” I said to myself. “So there is no God like the one I have imagined; the only reality is my life. There is no such God. And nothing, no miracle of any kind, can prove there is, because miracles exist only in my irrational imagination.”

“But where does my notion of God, of the one whom I seek, come from?” I asked myself. And again with this thought there arose in me joyous waves of life. Everything around me came to life, full of meaning.

But my joy did not last long. My mind continued its work. “The concept of God,” I told myself, “is not God. A concept is something that occurs within me; the concept of God is something I can conjure up inside myself at will. This is not what I seek. I am seeking that without which there could be no life. Once again everything within me and around me began to die; again I felt the long being to kill myself. (Leo Tolstoy, Confession)

We posited in “Tolstoy and the Golden Calf,” that the sin of the people was their inability to commit to a single choice. It was the sin of ambivalence. I read the above words of Tolstoy and do not sense ambivalence as much as I hear the voice of someone committed to a choice; the choice to have a meaningful relationship with God. Even the person who is completely committed to such a relationship will struggle with his human limitations. He will wonder how much of his conception of God is only a “concept.” But, as Tolstoy wrote, “a concept is something that occurs within me; the concept of God is something I can conjure up inside myself at will.”

I cannot read the words, “This is not what I seek. I am seeking that without which there could be no life,” without respect for his quest.

The people were so disturbed by just a delay of a few hours of Moses returning to them that they began to look inward and wonder how real was their a relationship with God. “How can I feel so destabilized by an extra few hours of Moses being absent if I choose to believe in the God I have experienced since the Exodus?” It was not ambivalence that lay at the core of their sin, not even doubt, but fear of their inability to maintain the relationship they had with God without Moses being constantly present.

Oh yes, they appreciated Moses. Yes! They wanted Moses to be present. They did not want a relationship with God that was so dependent on a single human being.

To be continued…

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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7
Mar

Tolstoy and the Golden Calf

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

This is what happened to me: in the course of a whole year, when almost every minute I was asking myself whether I should end it all with a rope or a bullet, my heart was tormented with an agonizing feeling. This feeling I can only describe as a search for God.

It was a feeling of dread, of loneliness, of the forlornness in the midst of all that was alien to me, and it was a feeling of hope for someone’s help.

“He sees and knows of my search, my despair, my struggle,” I would say to myself. “He exists.” And as soon as I acknowledged this for an instant, life immediately rose up within me, and I could sense the possibility and even the joy of being.

And again, isolated from me and from the world, God would melt away before my eyes like a piece of ice; again nothing remained, again the source of life withered away. I was overcome with despair and felt that there was nothing for me to do but kill myself. (Leo Tolstoy, Confession)

I hear echoes of Tolstoy in the story of the Golden Calf. I hear the voice of the people wondering whether they are alone, without Moses, without God. They are frightened.

The fact that just a short “delay” of the return of their leader can cause such a deep sense of dread, indicates that these are people who, despite their great spiritual achievements, have been living on the edge. They have witnessed what no one else in history has ever seen. They have experienced the most profound miracles. Yet, there is something deep inside of them that makes it almost impossible for them to feel secure.

The same people who had been willing to wait hours just to have a private meeting with Moses, couldn’t wait just a few more hours to see whether Moses would return.

The same people who willingly chose distance from Moses when they accepted a system of judges rather than a direct relationship with Moses, could not bear just a few more hours of waiting for Moses. They needed him. They were desperate for an immediate response.

They did get their immediate response:. The Golden Calf, but then, Aaron declared the following day a holiday. They immediately accepted Aaron’s decision to hold off their celebration till the morrow. The same people who could not wait just a few hours, where now willing to wait overnight. The same people who were demanding an immediate response were now willing to delay their celebrations till the next day. Part of them desires an immediate response. Part of them is willing to delay. Part of them is desperate for a direct relationship with Moses. Part of them wants anything but a direct relationship with Moses.

In other words, these are people who do not know what it is they truly desire. They too, as did Tolstoy, experienced dread and loneliness, and hoped for someone’s help. But, they were aware of their ambivalence, and were convinced that as long as they were not committed to a single choice, they were undeserving of God’s continued involvement in their lives.

The Golden Calf was a symbol of their not being committed to a choice.

To be continued…

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Feb

Giving or Taking

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

An interesting thing happens as siblings choose which items to take from the home of a deceased parent; they are simultaneously giving and taking. When we say to another, “Here, take this Kiddush cup,” we are giving to each other, but there is an assumed taking in the process; by assuming those rights, we are taking ownership of my mother’s possessions. It’s fascinating to observe that all of us are more focused on the sharing, the giving, than the taking. I found it difficult to take anything other than pictures. One sister insisted that I take something, which I did, and, although I look at the item and feel connected to my parents, I still feel as if I took something away. Taking is harder for us than is giving.

Which leads me to the famous question on this week’s portion: Why does the verse instruct Moshe to, “Take a portion for Me,” rather than “give” to Me? There are many wonderful and enriching answers, but as I experienced the freedom to take to give even while having difficulty taking for myself, I realized that there is a skill to taking.

The verse is telling us that it is in the taking from my possessions that the item becomes holy. It does not become holy when given, but when taken. A coin separated for charity is holy when set aside for charity, even before it is given to a person or organization. When I choose to take time to pray, the time becomes holy before I begin praying.

The Chassidic Masters loved to teach that when the verse tells us, “When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you (Exodus 22:24),” that the proper way to read the verse is, “When you lend money to the poor, the money remains with you forever,” it becomes yours only when you take it to lend to the needy.

This is similar to the story in the Talmud of Munbaz, “Our Rabbis taught: It is related of King Munbaz that he dissipated all his own hoards and the hoards of his fathers in years of scarcity (by giving it all away to the poor). His brothers and his father’s household came in a deputation to him and said to him, ‘Your father saved money and added to the treasures of his fathers, and you are squandering them.’ He replied: ‘My fathers stored up below and I am storing above, as it says, ‘Truth springs out of the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven.’ My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with, as it says, ‘Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.’ My fathers stored something which produces no fruits, but I have stored something which does produce fruits (Bava Batra 11a).”

The power is not in the giving but by taking it and setting out to use it for good. This is the idea of making a blessing before we eat; it is our taking the food, and by reciting a blessing we are honoring the taking of the food to make a blessing as holy, even before we eat.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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